The biggest and most exciting annual conference for translators, ATA’s 52nd Annual Conference in Boston, is just around the corner! This will be my third time attending and my excitement just gets bigger every year, along with the conference. Remember an episode in Friends when Phoebe and Rachel talk about Monika getting married and they say they’re 80% happy and 20% jealous? Well, my excited-scared ratio for attending translation conferences and meeting translators from around the world has changed dramatically over the years.
First conference experience: 50% excited – 50% scared
Being in the middle of Times Square, in an impressive hotel with 2300+ attendees: too much to take in as a newbie in conferences. It was more like a recon mission: see what’s going on, get the hang of it and prepare for next year’s conference.
Even the very few people I talked to must have been stunned by my hit-and-run approach. Ted Wozniak was the first: ‘Hi, nice to meet you, thank you for Payment Practices, I’ve been a member since its Yahoo days, here’s my card, bye bye’. The second was Jill Sommer, who encouraged me through her blog to go and say hi. Which I did in pretty much the same way.
More mistakes from my first ATA conference
- The resumes I brought were 6 pages-long each! Of course I updated it the moment I returned home, but why couldn’t I have done that before the conference?
- When I got back I had planned to email the people who had given me their business cards during the speed networking session (at least I hadn’t been too scared to participate in that). Things got busy, a few months went by and I didn’t. It’s like I never met them, how dumb was that?
You get the picture. I hope you also see how I did horribly wrong and avoid doing the same or similar mistakes.
The next year: 80% excited-20% scared
My second ATA conference experience was in Denver. I was still scared and not really sure how to go about introducing myself and starting or participating in a conversation, but I was determined to give it a try. What I did differently:
- My resume was 2 pages this time, printed on 1 page, quite a progress, right?
- Not many Greeks attend the conference, so there’s no corner or banner in the Job Marketplace for Greek resumes. I bought a nice stand and printed an A4 with the word Greek on it in big bold letters and placed it behind my resumes.
- There were people I really wanted to introduce myself properly or talk to. Jill was one of them again. After half an hour of staring at her (sorry Jill!) across the room at a German Division gathering, I mustered the strength to go and talk to her again. I also attended a bloggers’ lunch she organized a few days later, although I wasn’t a blogger at the time. I met more amazing people there, including Eve Bodeux, Abigail Dahlberg, Tom Ellett & his wife Alison and many more.
- I took extensive notes during the conference and organized them in categories and to-do lists, so I knew exactly what I had to do as soon as I got back home.
- I introduced myself and congratulated some of the presenters whom I had found especially inspiring or helpful.
- I bought two books at the Exhibit Hall when the authors were also there, so I could meet them: The Prosperous Translator from Chris Durban and The Entrepreneurial Linguist from Judy & Dagmar Jenner.
When I returned home from the conference in Denver:
- I filed the business cards after copying all the details in my Outlook along with a note for each contact saying where I met them etc.
- I sent all the emails I had planned to within 3 weeks. First the personal ones, then the ones to fellow translators and the presenters I hadn’t had the chance to talk to and finally to a few translation agencies.
Doesn’t sound so hard, does it? And it’s only a very small part of the networking advantages the ATA conference offers you. There are so many things you can learn and interesting people to meet, including future clients. If you are a newcomer at the ATA conference, make sure to watch Jill Sommer’s (free) webinar and read her Webinar Q&A blog post.
What will I be doing at this year’s conference? Only time will tell! I finally have a website and blog, so I already feel more prepared. I’ve ordered new business cards with my logo plus, I just got my free Moo cards, courtesy of Klout perks, and they look so cute, can’t wait to show them off!
For me, the two most important things to do for this conference is to overcome my anxiety of meeting new people & NOT work for its whole duration. Fingers crossed for both.
What mistakes have you made in the conferences that you have attended? Were you overwhelmed during your first experience? How did you overcome your fears?
This is a very good posting, worth repeating, especially to newcomers or people (translators, students, etc.) who do not know what to do at an ATA conference, even after several experiences.
I can relate to some of the examples given here. I’ve been attending ATA conferences since 1993.
Thanks Mario! Wow, you’re a real veteran, that’s a lot of experience, I bet they are a piece of cake for you and you know everybody 🙂
Meeting colleagues has been a gift that keeps on giving. The whole ATA conference atmosphere is amazing and everybody is super friendly.
What I forgot to mention in the post is that hopefully I’ll feel much more comfortable this year because I’ve already met and interacted with lots of people though social media, that makes the process much easier.
This is such a great post. I think many of us think conferences are a snap, a breeze, no problem. But they do take thought and preparation if you really want to get the most out of them. And yes, we do better each time we attend.
I wish I were going to meet you in person, but perhaps next year…
Enjoy the conference, get lots out of it, and do share your successes/lessons once home?!
Thanks Lisa! It felt a bit weird but also liberating to remember and talk about my embarrassing conference moments. I’m definitely planning on blogging about the conference once I get back, it will be difficult to choose what to write about first 🙂 I’m sure we’ll meet some other place soon, is it my idea or has social media made the world seem much smaller?
1) Accepting work for immediately after the conference.
It takes two days to sort through and follow up on everything. Or more, but at least that. Don’t expect to translate a normal load the week after the conference if you want to do all the follow-up you ought to.
Which leads to…
2) Not following up – same as you.
It’s so easy to get caught up with paid work and forget that the benefits of the conference are fewer when you don’t communicate again.
A tip: email people you want to meet in advance. If you’re not sure if suggesting a specific meeting for lunch or the like is appropriate, mention an event you’ll be at (the division networking reception, speed networking, etc) where you might bump into each other.
I hope to meet you Catherine!
Great tips, thanks Karen! Emailing people to meet during the conference is on my to-do list, but I’m wondering if there’s enough time to meet everybody individually. The events ATA has planned are a very good opportunity (the reception, the division meetings you mentioned, the dance), plus there’s a tweet-up and a bloggers’ lunch. See you there Karen 🙂
You’re right, of course, that you can’t meet everybody individually, but you can’t assume you’ll bump into everyone you really want to meet either. I always schedule several meals well ahead, to make sure I get to chat properly to certain people. Perhaps people I’m not likely to sit with in sessions, for example.
You’re right, that needs some serious scheduling…
Great article, Catherine! My first ATA conference was in NYU as well. It was fantastic and inspiring, but I must also admit that I have a list of improvements I hope to make with the upcoming conferences in Boston. I am aiming for both better follow-up and planning. I also feel better prepared going into this conference because it is my second conference. Instead of being nervous about meeting strangers, I am excited about seeing friends from ATA52, the FLD list, twitter, various blogs, agencies, etc.
Wasn’t the NY conference overwhelming? So many people, it was a crazy experience, but also amazing 🙂 Looking forward to seeing you in Boston Jenn!
What a brilliant post, Catherine! Extremely helpful for beginners and boy, what a pleasure to read! I myself haven’t attended any conference yet, but if I do I will read your post again, and again…and again 🙂
Thank you so much for your kind words Ewa, I’m so glad you liked it! 🙂
I think in 2012 I’ll have enough experience to attend a few other conferences in Europe as well, we’ll definitely meet there (if not sooner in the UK).
Thanks for this round-up of reminders and tips, Catherine.
Here’s something I plan to try in Boston: take an occasional session off or simply use break time to review notes I’ve taken and write up specific action points in a format I can consult in the evening or a few days later.
Maybe it’s just age, but I generally get a ton of amazing ideas while listening to some of the excellent speakers, and then fail to act on them. (Or even remember them :-)).
Definitely! I did that too in Denver (during the sessions and then at night along with checking my emails) and it helped me send the follow-up emails when I got back to Greece. I don’t remember anything if I don’t write it down and you’re right, you hear and learn amazing and tons of stuff during the conference.
Thank you, Catherine!
Last year in Denver was my first time and I am preparing for Boston now!
You are so right about the first time being overwhelming and also forgetting to follow up afterwards: been there, done that ….
Had so many good intentions and great ideas when I left Denver, but day-to-day life took over with new assignments and just … well, life…, and before I knew it, it was already a few months later and I didn’t feel comfortable to contact people and say: “Hi, remember me from Denver?….”
So this time I plan to do things differently, and also take the time to enjoy myself! Will do my best to write down as much as possible, including my own ideas and thoughts that pop up during the sessions, and follow up afterwards.
Wishing you a great conference and hopefully I’ll see you there!
I think that up until the Christmas season (i.e. about 2 months after the conference) it’s ok to contact people. You can also send Christmas cards instead of a simple email, that’s also nice. I sent a few last year, felt great while preparing them. See you in Boston Dorine 🙂
Seriously? A half an hour? Surely I’m not that intimidating… 🙂
Greetings from Germany. I realized the two week Erlangen trip wasn’t my cup of tea and left early. Now I have an extra week to hang out with friends and do some shopping – and then fly home, do laundry and head to Boston. I am woefully unprepared this year.
Thanks for stopping by Jill! Hehe, not at all, you and everybody else has always been very friendly and helpful, I’m the wuss who couldn’t master the strength to say a simple hello 🙂
You can’t be unprepared even if you wanted to. Website, blog, cards all ready, plus you know everybody. You can plan everything else while in Boston.
By the way, will there be a bloggers’ lunch this year?
Thanks, Catherine, for sharing your “lessons learned.” I was excited to meet you too – I appreciate being able to exchange ideas with you and read your interesting comments on Twitter/blog. I think your ideas can always be applied – I have been going to the conference for many years now, but it takes effort to follow up and benefit fully; thanks for the reminder! And, see you there! Looking forward to it.
P.S. I loooooooooooove the speed networking session (thanks, Karen!)
Thank you for your kind words Eve, the feelings are mutual 🙂 See you in Boston!
I very much enjoyed reading your entry. I haven’t been to any translation conferences yet and I am about to attend my first journalism conference next month! So, I am still a rookie and I have a lot to learn about how to behave in conferences.
I have to admit, it still remains a question whether Greek translators translating (uniquely) into Greek , as opposed to agencies offering more languages, can network effectively and build professional relationships in such large conferences. I always thought Greek was such a small language for anyone to pay attention to.
By the way, if you were to attend a conference in Europe, which one would it be?
Thanks for stopping by. Great comment, lots of stuff to talk about 🙂
If the people in your journalism conference are as friendly and welcoming as the ATA conference attendees, you’ll have a blast. Just make sure not to be too shy and try to meet as many people as possible.
Now, as for the large conferences in someone’s own working industry, I don’t think they are good for finding clients. They are excellent for networking and meeting colleagues though. To find clients, I’d definitely try conferences/expos in our subjects of specialization, i.e. if you’re a gambling translator, a gaming/gambling expo would be perfect. I’ve also heard from other colleagues that some of the smaller translation conferences worldwide are good for finding clients.
Regarding Greek, it’s a great ice-breaker in conferences, both by being an “exotic” language and because people are always amazed that you traveled all that way across the Atlantic to attend a conference in the US. Plus, you usually have no or very few “competitors” also attending the conference, people will remember you for sure.
As for conferences in Europe that are in my wishlist, I’d love to attend Localization World someday (it was in Barcelona last spring) and tcworld conference.
Thanks Catherine for making me feel maybe a little less scared. Boston will be my very first conference ever and I’m coming over from Italy to attend. So yesm the scare factor fairly high at the moment. Sometimes wonder if I’ve done the right thing, then I get so carried away with what I want to do. Still have to sort out my speed networking pitch. Thnaks for the tips and making me feel more normal!
Hi Lisa! Don’t worry, everybody is always friendly, especially with first-time attendees (make sure to attach the pink round sticker on your name tag, they’ll give you both at registration). You can also find me during the conference, I’ll introduce you to a few people. For your pitch (or elevator speech), check out this great post: https://www.atanet.org/chronicle/feature_article_february2010.php
Catherine — I’m so happy that the elevator speech article has been useful to you. And for the record, I’m still at least 40% scared when I go into networking situations. That’s the main reason I need an elevator speech. Thanks for the reminders on good conference preparation and followup. I hope our paths will cross in Boston.
Thanks Catherine, look forward to touching base next week!
@Lillian It’s so nice to meet you Lillian! Wow, now that’s a great reason for someone to have a blog, you get to meet interesting people as well 🙂 Your article is better featured in my upcoming post about preparing for a conference. I must have read it myself over 10 times already (mind you my elevator speech is still far from perfect!), thank you so much for writing it.
It’s such a relief to hear you say you’re still scared when it comes to networking. Even when you know all the tricks, some things just don’t come natural to some people. I hope to see you in Boston so we can test each other’s elevator speeches 🙂